“I’m not allowed to play with you anymore”

 

12 December 2017 / Cassie Marie McDonagh

Irish Traveller Cassie Marie McDonagh tells the Travellers’ Times why she needed to write her children’s book about bullying at school and its effects on the Gypsy and Traveller community

I have had many experiences because of my ethnicity some good and some bad, but what prompted me to write this book “I’m not allowed to play with you anymore” is my experience in education as a child … writes Cassie Marie McDonagh.

The book is about an Irish Travelling girl whose friend is an English boy and one day out of the blue he doesn’t want to play with her any more. To her there is no reason for this and for him he is just doing what his father is telling him to do. “Not to play with her because she is a Traveller”.

This is what happened to me in school and looking back even now upsets me.

We were just innocent children ethnicity should never have been an issue.

This is not my only experience of racism in school, our bags were searched nearly every day by the teachers, and we were made to feel like it was us against them.

In some ways I was lucky as I went to a school with other Travellers. At least I had support from them.

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I went to three different schools and eventually leaving at the age of 11 because of the way I was being treated.

But all of these experiences made me think that I wasn’t welcome in schools and that the settled people will always treat me different.

I am now a mother and I care for my two younger brothers all of whom are in education. I see now how important education is and I am determined that they all finish school and get a good education.

The oldest of the three “Johnny” is now in year 9, I couldn’t be prouder of him, he is the first in our family to go to high school and thankfully there has been only minor problems with him.

He wants to do business and construction when he is older and knows to be able to do this he has to have an education.

Travellers roles within society have changed we are no longer able to do the kinds of jobs we used to do so education is key for us to better our lives.

But we need schools, teachers and parents to stop pre-judging Traveller and assuming we don’t want education. We do, it’s just our experiences in schools have usually been so bad that we try to protect ourselves and our children by taking them out of school.

We are all individuals, yet are all treated the same by settled people. I can guarantee every Traveller reading this has faced some form of discrimination.

My hope is that this book will help stop Traveller children from being bullied in the future and that parents start to realise that their words have consequences.

You can download Cassie’s book for free by clicking on this link:  “I’m not allowed to play with you anymore”.

(Main picture: Cassie Marie McDonagh at the Traveller Movement conference 2017 © TT)

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